cover image Wise Men

Wise Men

Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster, $22.45 (864pp) ISBN 978-0-671-50465-6

This extensive group-portrait by two Time news editors trumpets the role of six policymakersDean Acheson, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, John McCloy Jr., Charles Bohlen, Robert Lovettin taking postWW II America from isolationism to a recognition that the U.S. ""would have to assume the burden of a global role.'' The irony is that, as elder statesmen, they sometimes warned against the interventionist momentum they had helped create, as this behind-the-scenes account makes clear. The authors' portrayal of the six as the hidden architects behind the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and Cold War containment will certainly provoke debate. Based on prodigious research, including interviews with four of the six, the tome often sounds like an official biography (``Kennan had tortuously conflicted feelings about being tapped to be part of the American elite'') and the prose echoes Time's style (Dean Rusk, ``the round-faced Georgian''). History buffs will follow with interest the minor revelations that spill forth as the six advise presidents from F. D. R. to L. B. J. Major ad/promo. (October 27)